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8 Successful Communication Strategies for the Higher Education Sector

8 Successful Communication Strategies for the Higher Education Sector

Munira Koshen

Mar 5, 2020

As the market undergoes digital transformation, communication experts in the higher education sector are constantly faced with many challenges. That’s why we’ve turned to our clients in the higher education sector to share their best-practices and most effective communication strategies.

From alumni relations to internal newsletters and newsjacking: discover 8 effective communication strategies for the higher education sector!

1. Utilizing the local press

Most educational institutions build strong media relations in the countries they are based in. However, it is also important to consider the local press in other countries or regions.

Every year, thousands of students come to the Middle East to pursue their higher education. Including international and other regions’ local media in your strategy is a great way to attract foreign students.

“Last summer we launched the Purple Canada Tour where students drove cross country in a purple van spreading the word about Bishop’s and doing random acts of kindness. With every stop, I’d use the influencer database to pull a list of local journalists, and then reach out to set up interviews. As a result, we gained exposure and brand recognition in cities that had never written about the university!”
Chantal Sneath, Chief Communications Officer, Bishop’s University

2. Give visibility to alumni news

Alumni are a strong medium of media coverage for educational institutions. Their work and accomplishments contribute to the overall reputation of the university.

However, its often a challenge for schools to maintain strong relations with their alumni and manually track their news features.

Many institutions use Meltwater to help them automatically pick up all articles which mention their alumni. Keeping the alumni informed of their press coverage can also become a new means of building a stronger Alumni relations strategy.

“Alumni are the university’s ambassadors to the world and it fills us with pride to track their news in the media in combination with the university’s coverage.”
Manuela Gutberlet, Public Relations Manager, German University of Technology in Oman

“I let our alumni know when their name has appeared in the media. If the coverage warrants it, I’ll put the link on Twitter. It’s all part of the brave new world of alumni relations!”
J. Michael Moore, Director of Media Relations, Emory University Goizueta Business School

Keeping track of such news also allows the school to relay important achievements of their alumni.

“One of our alumni became the President of St. Lucia, and we had absolutely no idea because he’s no longer in touch with the university. We learned of this through media monitoring, which was the only way we could have had access to the Caribbean publication that made the announcement, and then we posted the news to our social media channels!”
Chantal Sneath, Chief Communications Officer, Bishop’s University

preparing executives for media interviews

3. Promote faculty’s research

Research published by schools is one of the most popular topics in the press. While each school has its own lines of research, the marketing team can collaborate with faculty to identify new angles of research in response to current trends.

“We are among a handful of schools that continuously innovate. We are proud to advance the field of education, particularly through the digitization of training and strengthening our international partnerships. We use Meltwater to identify possible angles for coverage, distinguish ourselves and stay in touch with our community. For example, we have seen marketing appear this year as one of the most influential topics in the online press.”
Boris Galinat, Head of External Relations, KEDGE Business School

The communication department must then work on promoting the research work of its professors, for example by identifying journalists who are interested in the topics researched and by personalizing their approach.

“I use Meltwater to find journalists who are likely to be interested in the research that I’m in the process of promoting. For example, I can search for journalists who are discussing particular antibiotics within their articles, and create lists of contacts for each particular field. I then create a bespoke pitch for each journalist.”
Clare Bebb, Media Relations Manager, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Finally, it is important to share the results of your campaign with the faculty, to both celebrate their accomplishments and to also help them understand the public opinion around their publication.

“Meltwater lets me share metrics on what’s worked for book promotions. I can use the success of one professor to guide the efforts of another. This allows me to reach out and give back to educators, so I’m not only going to them when I need something.”
J. Michael Moore, Senior Media Relations and Online Producer, Emory University Goizueta Business School

4. React to current topics

Newsjacking, or the art of utilizing current and trending news for promotion and increased visibility, also works in higher education!

By reacting to highly-discussed news, educational organizations can create a buzz around them in the media landscape. This can be done by publishing research related to the topic or by organizing an event.

“Presidential candidate Ben Carson was speaking nearby in Dayton. A former brain tumor patient of his is on staff here and we asked Dr. Carson if he’d like to visit. We used Meltwater’s keyword search to interest CNN, NBC, Fox News, and international media in covering the reunion. Footage of Dr. Carson at Cedarville University still appears on TV!”
Mark Weinstein, Director of Public Relations, Cedarville University

5. Highlight faculty expertise

Some professors are recognized for their expertise in specific topics, and are regularly solicited by the press to give input on current events.

To shed light on the expertise of their faculty, some schools have created their own blog, where professors can express themselves and share their expert opinion and research. These articles are then taken up by the press.

“NSU teachers are often interviewed by the local, national and international press, but we are not aware of most of these interviews. One of our professors does media almost every day and is covered in top tier publications! Our monitoring allows us to identify and leverage this for major media attention.”  Marla Oxenhandler, Associate Director of Public Affairs, Nova Southern University

6. Targeted social media messaging

As a higher education institution, your social media accounts are not only followed by current students, but also alumni, prospective students, parents, journalists, professors and other educational institutions.
In short: a diverse audience! Which also means large numbers of messages to respond to, if you are looking to be able to satisfy them all.

Some universities successfully analyze their different communities, and which social media channel they are more active on. Once the different audience groups are identified, universities can build a social media strategy for communicating with each group.

“Becoming aware of our audiences has been a real issue in our digital communication. We were able to build our messaging on social media based on the different profiles of those who follow us. This has completely transformed our overall communication strategy and has ultimately allowed us to boost our reputation. INP Toulouse is now one of the top 10 schools active on Twitter.”
lorence Lauriac, Director of Communications, INP Toulouse

linkedin groups

7. Set up an internal newsletter

In the field of public relations, we are accustomed to speaking to journalists and influencers, so much that we often forget about the importance of internal communication.

Maintaining consistent internal communication allows you to keep all your employees informed of your work and the media coverage your university is receiving. It is also one of the most effective ways to showcase your efforts and achievements as a communications department.

A periodical internal newsletter could be the perfect solution!

“My internal stakeholders get this great looking, professional newsletter that makes them say, “Wow, this is impressive, keep this coming!” They see us as a trusted resource for delivering timely news, that’s such a positive thing for our department!” Mark Thomas, Communications Officer, Birdville Independant School District

8. Set up alerts in case of crisis

The higher education sector is not immune to crises, which can be caused by many factors. It is therefore important to media monitoring and alerts that will help your organization in anticipating crises.

“We had an issue dealing with racist emails sent out to our student body, and we received the first alert at 10:30 at night. That initial alert allowed us to immediately research and do proactive damage control. Alerts help us calm fears by providing facts and approaching situations with a level head. The ability to receive alerts based on location and proximity to the campus ensures we’re the first to know if something big is happening.”  Nikki Sunstrum, Director of Social Media, University of Michigan


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